December 29th, 2010
By: David Gutierrez
Vitamin D deficiency may contribute to the development of breast cancer, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of South Carolina and presented at the Third American Association for Cancer Research Conference on the Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Miami.
Researchers measured vitamin D levels in 107 women who had received a breast cancer diagnosis within the past five years. Not only was vitamin D deficiency widespread among the participants, but lower levels of the vitamin were also significantly correlated with triple-negative breast cancer.
Triple-negative breast cancer is the most aggressive and hardest to treat form of the disease, as it is unresponsive to all the most effective drugs. The researchers found that it was eight times more common in women with vitamin D deficiency than in those with adequate levels of the vitamin.
The findings may explain why rates of triple-negative are consistently higher in black and Hispanic women than among white women.
“We know that darker skin pigmentation acts somewhat as a block to producing vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, which is the primary source of vitamin D in most people,” researcher Susan Steck said.
Indeed, while only 15 percent of white women in the study had low levels of vitamin D deficiency, 60 percent of black participants had insufficient levels.
“[The study] corroborates other research showing racial differences in vitamin D status and provides further support for a protective role of vitamin D in breast cancer,” the researchers wrote.
As more evidence of vitamin D’s role in disease prevention has emerged in recent years, health experts have become increasingly alarmed at the widespread levels of deficiency across the United States.
“Vitamin D deficiency is epidemic in America, and it contributes not only to the development of osteoporosis but to increased cancer and heart disease as well,” writes Joel Fuhrman in his book Cholesterol Protection for Life.